Hell House Review

By John Keegan

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I’m not sure if it was adjustment to the new night, or my mental state due to a bad sinus cold, but this episode didn’t really do it for me. Even the banter between the Brothers Winchester didn’t really strike me as particularly substantial. I like the fact that they can relax enough around each other to pull pranks, but since I prefer the more conflicted psychology between Sam and Dean, I wasn’t as interested in the wacky.

I also wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of mocking “ghost hunters”. I will be the first to admit that there are a lot of people running around out there with no clue what they’re doing when it comes to investigating unusual phenomena. Many probably look and act the way the characters in this episode did. That’s all well and good, except that I got the distinct feeling that the writers were portraying all paranormal investigators as geeks without a clue.

From a personal perspective, I happen to listen to a few podcasts with established paranormal investigators and I’m quite the fan of “Ghost Hunters”, which is a show based on the investigations carried out by TAPS, a group with strong credentials and integrity. So the point is that many of the jokes fell flat for me, which in turn made it hard to get into the spirit of the episode.

I completely admit that this is a personal issue, and I’m not so subjective that I can’t see the good aspects of the episode. I liked the idea of a phenomena that was driven by collective belief, something which could tie into the overall mythology in some interesting ways. It puts a new spin on how the writers have been treating urban legends thus far. Instead of revealing the true phenomena behind all the legends, this episode presents the empowerment of an entity through the collective “urban legend” generated in absence of any particular trigger.

The implication is that the entity troubling the Winchesters may not be what it appears. It’s easy to assume that the entity existed independently of the Winchesters prior to killing Mary, but is that necessarily the case? If the Winchesters didn’t have a history of interaction with the paranormal prior to that incident, was there something that they did, completely without realizing it, that brought the entity into viability?

That’s what I like about this series: it started out as a relatively simple premise, and in short order, the mythology has expanded to cover some unexpected territory. And it resists the urge to slip into self-parody too quickly, which would hurt the series tremendously this early in its existence. Even “X-Files” waited until the third season to poke fun at itself directly; it works far better if the self-awareness is kept within controlled limits. This episode is more light-hearted, and in ways I didn’t really enjoy, so I hope the focus returns to something more thrilling in the next episode.

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